Things to Know About Degrees in Alternative Medicine | Natural Healers

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Alternative medicine careers require different levels of education. Here are your curriculum and degree paths.

What holistic medicine degrees are available?

From certificates to doctoral degrees, the alternative medicine arena offers a wide range of educational resources for those interested in joining this growing field.

If you plan to work as a naturopathic doctor (ND), you’ll need to earn a doctoral degree in order to practice. This type of program teaches students about all the areas of natural health and prepares them to work in a private practice or clinic.

Other alternative medicine programs, like hypnotherapy or homeopathy, are typically geared toward those with an ND (or MD) and come in the form of diplomas or certificates. Many naturopathic doctors use homeopathy and hypnotherapy to complement their existing treatments. If you’re interested in studying an area of alternative medicine as a hobby, you can also find courses and seminars.

If you plan to attend a college or university to be trained in alternative medicine, you can expect to learn about the following topics:

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

A bachelor’s of science (BS) degree in alternative medicine is a four-year program which will incorporate both general education requirements—English, math, science—with specific course work related to alternative medicine.

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If you already work in the natural health field as a massage therapist or other profession, earning a BS in alternative medicine can expand your career options and teach you how to include new treatment methods in to your job.

As an example of what you might encounter in a BS in alternative medicine program, Everglades University offers the following classes once a student has completed the general education requirements:

  • History of Medicine
  • Herbology and Botany
  • Nutrition and Aging
  • Feng Shui
  • Ayurvedic Medicine
  • Body Awareness and Physical Movement
  • Antioxidants
  • Naturopathy

Becoming an ND doesn’t require a pre-med undergraduate major, but if you know you’re interested in heading down this career path, be sure to fulfill any science prerequisites that may be necessary for graduate school.

If you’ve got your sights set on a naturopathic doctor career right from the start, there are undergraduate naturopathic programs which include 20 semester or 30 quarter credits of chemistry, botany, biology, anatomy and physiology.

Master’s Degree Programs

If you’re looking to earn a master of science in alternative medicine degree, you’re in luck. There’s no shortage of graduate programs, but you’ll need to determine what area of the field you want to focus on.

Concentrations include:

  • Integrative medicine research
  • Health promotion
  • Vedic Science
  • Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
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As an example of coursework in an MS program for alternative medicine, the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM) Master of Science in Integrative Medicine Research includes these classes:

  • Introduction to Integrative Medicine: Chinese medicine, naturopathy, homeopathy and other topics are introduced.
  • Intro to Immunology: Immune system functions and how to track health outcomes is covered.
  • Bioethics: Students are taught about ethical, regulatory and legal issues as it relates to research.

Physiology and health, nutrition, physical medicine and pulse reading are other topics you’ll be trained in.

Doctoral Degree Programs

Just like a medical doctor (MD), naturopathic doctors need the most advanced degree to practice. In fact, NDs learn the same basic sciences as an MD, but they’re also schooled in a vast array of alternative medicine techniques.

To become an ND, students must be trained in:

  • Acupuncture
  • Clinical nutrition
  • Botanical medicine
  • Homeopathic medicine
  • Psychological counseling to help patients make lifestyle adjustments

Clinical training will be another crucial aspect in your doctoral education. With clinical experience, you’ll meet with patients and get a sense of the environment you could one day be working in.

What certification will I need?

Your field of expertise will determine your licensure requirements. Licensure is done through the state you plan to work in, while certifications are generally provided by industry organizations. Certification does not necessarily mean you are licensed to practice.

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Naturopathic Doctor

Not all states distribute licenses for alternative medicine practitioners, but the following states do, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands.  The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) is a proponent of licensure in all 50 states.

  • Washington
  • Vermont
  • Utah
  • North Dakota
  • Alaska
  • Oregon
  • Montana
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • Maine
  • Connecticut
  • Arizona
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Idaho
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island

The Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians…

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